Court Of Impeachment And War Crimes: IMPEACHMENT: Amazing Grace, An Inspiration for our Advocates
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Monday, March 5, 2007

IMPEACHMENT: Amazing Grace, An Inspiration for our Advocates


















AMAZING GRACE: A PURSUIT OF JUSTICE; IT HAS A MESSAGE FOR US
The film is inspiring. When Wilberforce finally achieves victory, Lord Fox makes a speech, in which the opening words, sadly, still ring true today: "When people think of great men, rarely do they think of peaceful men."


Amazing Grace (30 seconds with Chris Tomlin)


Rotten Tomatoes Reviews


Chicago Sun Times



AND NOW IT IS MY TURN



THIS HISTORY LESSON WORTH REPEATING

Connie Ogle Miami Herald Published: Friday, February 23, 2007


''God sometimes does his work with gentle drizzle, not storms,'' slave ship captain-turned-evangelical Anglican clergyman John Newton (Albert Finney) tells the fiery young politician William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd), after the latter reveals that he has found his way back to God, though not in a remarkably dramatic way.


Newton's comment is equally true of the difficult work to which Wilberforce commits himself in late-18th century England: Ending Britain's slave trade. Wilberforce, whose story is showcased intelligently in Richard Apted's absorbing new film titled after Newton's famous hymn, was ultimately successful, but change came slowly, after years of unyielding pressure.



“Yet the honest desire to change an ugly truth in one's country becomes sedition during wartime -- an allusion not lost on anyone who has lived in the United States during the Iraq war -- and Apted shows us how wrong-headed patriotism during the Napoleonic wars derailed Wilberforce's debate. The Parliamentary scenes are refreshingly lively, reminding us how dull in comparison U.S. congressional hearings can be.”



Apted delivers a fine, righteous climax and packs his film with some of Britain's best character actors, including Rufus Sewell as cheeky abolitionist Thomas Clarkson, who's interesting enough to merit a movie of his own; Toby Jones (Infamous) as the snooty, rouged Duke of Clarence; CiarĂ¡n Hinds as Lord Tarleton, Wilberforce's greatest foe; and Michael Gambon, who steals the movie as the crafty Lord Charles Fox. Like Newton, who tells Wilberforce he can feel the souls of the 20,000 slaves he transported in chains to the New World, Fox may have started his career blind. But through Wilberforce's extraordinary grace, the stark difference between good and evil is all he can see.



“…I always wanted to find a kind of somewhat heroic story in politics and I couldn’t find one in the contemporary world. Then this script arrived, which was pretty much a straight bio pic of Wilberforce – which probably veered more into his Christian side than it did the political side. So I thought if I could persuade them to put the politics right more in the front of it – to make that the engine of the story, and certainly deal with his belief system and his religion and all that – then this might be something that would really be good; for me to do it. So I did manage to persuade that, on all sorts of levels because I said it makes the character more interesting, because his political skills and political achievements are enormous, and we would move away from the idea of kind of making him an artifact, a kind of saint-like figure; it would give him real personality, real dimension.”



“I wanted the film to be a testament to the political process, how outcries for justice can alter the course of history.

"One of the things that intrigued me about it was a kind of [John F.] Kennedy story, a Camelot story, of young people taking on the establishment," says Apted. "What I want people to take from it, and this is very ambitious for me, is the importance of political discussion - how politics should and must be for good.

"It can't become an object for contempt or an object of indifference. When people are indifferent about politics, it's incredibly dangerous, because it allows politics to go haywire. That is all to obvious today in Iraq and the United States" –Michael Apted-



Periodically movie reviews will appear on The Precinct Master Blog; movies we have enjoyed, and especially those we feel are pertinent and relevant to the overall viewpoint of this website; in other words, political in nature, historically/faithful and factual, accurate where warranted, progressive in tone, and hopefully meaningful in the contemporary media climate; this film meets all those criteria and more.


I have chosen to post this review initially in The Court of Impeachment and War Crimes because it recalls and reminds, documents, the trail and trials of tribulation that accompany all efforts to achieve Justice, right legal and moral wrongs in the face of a public that will not support at the moment, a political climate opposed, for a multitude of reasons, selfish, cynical or inconvenient to some, unthinkable to others; accustomed to an acceptance of things “as they are”; the task of the dreamer, the task of the change agents, requires, as our current pursuit of the removal of a leadership and administration that imperils all that which all of our fore bearers have built of dreams, nurtured with blood and have sacrificed a goodly portion of their lives that could otherwise have been spent in a more common and comfortable existence.


So as it now our time to make such a sacrifice of time, self and commitment, resisting all temptations to surrender, the life and struggle of William Wilberforce and those shared the common goal of Abolition of the great evil slavery, is a timely reminder of the nature of such struggles as well as up lifting reminder of the rewards when Justice is served!


"Amazing Grace," Director Michaels Apted's film, opened nationally on Friday, tells the inspiring story of William Wilberforce and how one man's uninterrupted passion actually changed the world. Based on the true-life story of Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd), a leader of the British abolition movement, the film chronicles the intense political struggle to end the slave trade throughout the British Empire.


Along this journey, he meets with intense opposition from fellow members of Parliament who feel the slave trade and the British economy are one and the same. Wilberforce is supported by among others, John Newton (Albert Finney); a reformed slave ship captain who penned the beloved hymn "Amazing Grace."


"Newton was a sea captain," explains Finney, "who profited from the slave trade until, aged 45, he suffered a crisis of conscience and left the sea to enter the church. There he remained and wrote over 200 hymns including Amazing Grace."


A Christian when Christians were Christians, Wilberforce, in his early 20's, was drawn to the church and wrestled with the idea of making it his life's work. After much reflection he pragmatically concluded that he could do more as a politician/activist.


A single-minded man who kept pursuing his goal, he managed to snatch success from the jaws of defeat. To most people at the time the idea of abolishing the slave trade was ludicrous - like someone suggesting that we cannot impeach a criminal President during the time of a contrived and illegal war, right now! Wilberforce and his supporters faced the same attitudes of resistance and reluctance as those we are in the process of, and within the system, like him, manipulating the very tools being used against him and us, to chart the course to eventual and inevitable victory. The tide of public opinion had to be turned, as we need to continue the process of pressure and public opinion formation.


Told beautifully with fully fleshed out flashbacks and wrapped around Wilberforce's profoundly intellectual/romantic relationship with Barbara Spooner (Romola Garai) the film takes us on a journey from Wilberforce's college days with best friend William Pitt (who would go on to become the youngest Prime Minister in English history) to his death bed in 1833.


William Wilberforce and William Pitt were both very young men, under thirty, when they took on the British establishment to bring about the abolition of the slave trade, tells Michael Apted, "like Kennedys and their Camelot court were to America in the early sixties."


What Apted has created here (and some of the critics have apparently missed it) is a historical period piece with immense relevance to today's situation. The slave trade represents the Iraq war of its day. As most of the modestly budgeted (well costumed) costume drama revolves around the machinations of the British Parliament, it can be more than reasonably compared to the verbal masturbation and denial we Americans are witnessing and being subjected to, in and by, our own Congress, and the British view in and of their contemporary Parliament. For just as in 1807, in 2007 the Neros fiddle while Rome burns. We chose not to be the recording historians of a repeat performance of that story, but to be the authors of a chapter of American rebirth and reawakening.


My research reveals that this explanation would not hold water were it not for the intense progressive film making of Mr. Apted over the past quarter century. For this, we now engaged in our own struggle should thank him and support his efforts. The price of admission is a meager reward, the gift of reminder validation and vindication we leave the theater with is even greater.


Michael Apted is an English filmmaker of both documentaries and dramatic films. You might not know his name. But you know his films. He began working in film as a researcher for the British Granada Television and soon became established as an investigative reporter and TV director of the news series World In Action. In 1962, as a documentary filmmaker, he created the acclaimed "7 UP" series tracking the lives of 14 British kids every 7 years, from then to today. "49 Up" was released in 2005.


In 1980, he directed his first American feature, "Coal Miner's Daughter," which garnered 7 Academy nominations, including Sissy Spacek's Oscar for portraying country singer Loretta Lynn. For other reasons of personal association, I appreciated that effort also. What appeared to be a straight forward biopic actually revealed an American culture that allowed 13-year-old girls to legally wed in complete poverty and produce five children by age 20.


"Critical Condition," (1987) a deeply under appreciated comedy, demonstrated what happens when a black con man (Richard Pryor) takes over a big city hospital.


(The politics of the medical business would returns again in 1996 with the grisly thriller "Extreme Measures," starring Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker.)


"Gorillas In The Mist," starring Sigourney Weaver followed. Released in 1988, it received 5 Oscar nominations. The story of Dian Fossey and her attempts to save endangered apes was actually a message- driven biopic. It served as a huge boost to then fledgling animal rights movement.


The documentary, "Incident at Oglala" released in 1992, took us back to 1975 on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. Two FBI agents were killed in a wild shootout with a group of Native Americans. Only one, Leonard Peltier was found guilty. The film suggests he was framed. (Interestingly, Peltier's name came to the surface again just last week in the media wrestle, which saw David Geffen denounce the Clintons in favor of Barak Obama. It was pointed out that Geffen's break with the Clintons occurred in 2000 when Clinton refused a request by Geffen to pardon Peltier in favor of convicted embezzler Marc Rich.)


Later that same year, Apted directed, "Thunderheart," starring Val Kilmer about the same subject matter.


In 1994, "Nell," starring Jodie Foster as a muted wild child, demonstrated the powerlessness of women and what it's like to be a misunderstood young female in the male dominated world of sophisticated adults.


In 1999, Michael Apted was “stunned” to learn that he was being sought out to direct the next James Bond film "The World Is Not Enough." Having never directed a big Hollywood action film Apted decided to give it a try. What resulted was the most political Bond of all, as the plot revolved around cutting off world oil supplies and the terrorist nuking of Europe.


Two years ago, when HBO needed someone to direct their soon-to-be acclaimed series, "Rome," they turned to none other than Michael Apted to pilot the first three episodes. "Rome," for those who haven't seen it, is quite a brutal piece of political drama.


A look at Apted's career reveals he sees what he's filming through an intensely focused political lens. The subject matter of the slave trade, in a way, while an immense crime against humanity, is indeed in a league that features the deaths of over 650,000 civilians in Iraq, a number far surpassing the base line for “Genocide”.


A few moments into the film as one see the debates in the British Parliament you are immediately jarred by the fact that this is not about the slave trade alone but a repeating human struggle today in the trade in human lives being thrown overboard in Iraq and other manifestations of modern slave trading admirably addressed at the movie online site as well.


In addition, by deftly depicting the political maneuvers of the supporters for the slave trade, we see how their parliamentary gamesmanship becomes the cinematic shorthand reminder Mr. Apted employs to remind us of Western governments' misuse and abuse of their so-called representative democracy. Make no mistake about the fact that Apted has got one foot planted in the early 1800s in this film and the other in 2007. Interviews associated with this film well document that fact!


Through his own parliamentary chicanery, (a term more appropriate to the 1800s, and manipulation to us), Wilberforce finally outsmarted his opposition when their guard was down. (He had brought the bill up for a vote every year since he wrote it in 1791.)


In July 1833, the Abolition of Slavery Bill was passed in the House of Commons at the third reading.


William Wilberforce died three days later.


{For the record, it should be noted that Wilberforce also founded the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals - the Grandfather to PETA.}


The irony that "real" Christians and deeply religious folks were the heart and soul of the slave trade abolition movement is surely not lost on Mr. Apted. Today's so-called American Christian leaders, for the most part, support the war in Iraq, torture of detainees and a Crusade-like war on the Muslims.


Mr. Apted softly brings this home with images of church, song and prayer. Not to preach, but to show how "pure" the desire actually was on the part of the Abolition Movement and by stark contrast, just how jaded and greed-driven the pro slave traders remained decade after decade. I did not find the material offensive or preachy, or that Apted avoided or diluted the matter, but that he provided an honest reflection of the religious content of that period in history.


Apparently the time was never right for the end of the slave trade and anyone who suggested the British pull out of the slave trade was branded as a traitor to his country. Sound familiar?


*The Film/Cinematography work in this film is flawless and always appropriate to the task and ambience.*

Remi Adefarasin's name may not be as widely recognised as those of the actors in front of his camera, but the cinematographer left an indelible imprint on almost thirty film and television productions during the 1980s and 90s.

Adefarasin first made his mark in British television in the early 80s. His collaboration with director Mike Leigh yielded a variety of productions, including Grown Ups, Home Sweet Home and Four Days in July.
From his work with Leigh, Adefarasin went on to act as cinematographer for a number of British television programs, including the 1988 miniseries Christabel, which was co-written by the legendary Dennis Potter and starred an obscure young actress by the name of Elizabeth Hurley.

During the 1990s Adefarasin expanded his repetoire, continuing to lend his vision to such made-for-TV movies as The Lost Language of Cranes (1991) and The Buccaneers (1995), but also working with directors such as Anthony Minghella on the wry and touching Truly, Madly, Deeply (1992).
In particular, the late 1990s saw Adefarasin act as cinematographer for a number of high profile works, including the harrowing Hollow Reed (1996), Peter Howitt's Sliding Doors (1998), Elizabeth (1998) (for which he was nominated for a slew of awards, including an Oscar, and won a British Academy Award), and the Fiennes family odyssey Onegin (1999).
In addition, Adefarasin was able to collaborate again with Minghella on The English Patient (1996) as one of the directors of photography responsible for giving the sands of the Sahara their unforgettable golden fire. ~ Rebecca Flint, All Movie Guide

Remi Adefarasin


That is why this film is relevant to us today, and that is why I urge you to see it.


In 1969, while the Vietnam War was raging full bore, folk singer Arlo Guthrie officially opened the 3 day Woodstock Music and Arts Festival with an anti-war song.


It was Amazing Grace.


(Joan Baez would later sing her rendition of it for the same goal.)


At its core, Amazing Grace is a justice oriented and an anti-war sentiment movie, and like many things the mainstream media has missed in recent years, they have missed a message of this classically styled picture by a socially progressive veteran director, simply because they viewed the screen and never connected the content with the man who chose to direct this film. That is akin to reading a serious book in the belief that all that exists on the paper is words and none of the author’s blood.


Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now I'm found,

Was blind, but now I see.


In Britain, March 25th 2007 marks the 200th anniversary of the end of the slave trade. The British government is using the film along with exhibitions and debates as teaching tools to educate their students about English complicity in the slave trade.


The film opens in England that day as well.


Directed by Michael Apted Written by Steven Knight
Starring Ioan Grufford, Romola Garai, Albert Finney, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon and Yousson N'Dour

Running Time: 120 minutes Opened: Friday February 23rd

FILM



‘Amazing Grace’ to premiere at Ohio college
Friday, February 16, 2007


WILBERFORCE, Ohio (AP) — A film about a member of Parliament and abolitionist who helped end the slave trade in the British Empire 200 years ago will make its U.S. debut at Wilberforce University.


Amazing Grace, which chronicles the work of William Wilberforce, will be shown today — a week ahead of its release in U.S. theaters — at the southwestern Ohio institution, the university said.


The screening will take place at 7 p.m. in the Alumni Multiplex, 1055 N. Bickett Rd. in Wilberforce, and be open to the public. Admission is free.


Wilberforce led a 20-year campaign in the British Parliament that resulted in the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire in 1807.


Founded in 1856 by the African Methodist Episcopal church for educating the children of slaves and named for the British parliamentarian, Wilberforce is the United States’ oldest private, historically black university.


The university was invited to join with the movie’s producers, school spokeswoman Robin Thomas said.


"We believe it’s important for people to understand the legacy of Wilberforce and his impact on the U.S.," she said. "His work inspired the abolitionist movements here, yet he is little known in the states."


The university’s choir is featured on the film’s soundtrack and will perform Friday night before the movie is shown.


The film provides good exposure for the singing group and great education for the entire community, said choir director Jeremy Winston, chairman of sacred and choral music.


"Even here at Wilberforce University, there are people who are not familiar with William Wilberforce and what he has done," he said.


Winston said he hopes the movie will heighten awareness about slavery that exists in parts of the world today and will prompt action to eradiate such egregious injustice.


The film also depicts William Wilberforce’s relationship with John Newton, a British slave trader turned evangelical minister who wrote the lyrics to the hymn Amazing Grace.


Amazing Grace will open next Friday nationally and in central Ohio theaters.


“Although Wilberforce's task at the outset seemed impossible -- many argued the British economy would collapse if Wilberforce succeeded -- by 1807, he was considered a hero. When his bill passed Parliament that year, MPs gave him a standing ovation.

The movie also touches on other aspects of Wilberforce's life -- his love of animals, his desire to reform society's manners and his perpetual bad health, which he treated at the time with opium -- then a common drug to which he became addicted.

The movie's organizers are asking churches to sing "Amazing Grace" and promote the movie Feb. 18, the Sunday before its Friday release.



Organizers also are asking people to sign a petition online at http://www.theamazingchange.com/ seeking the end of modern-day slavery.”

I would encourage all who read this to do so…NOW!

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